‘The B Home’ And How We Build Houses In Princeton

The 'B Home' in situ at D&R Greenway Park in Princeton. (Click to expand.)

The ‘B Home’ in situ at D&R Greenway Park in Princeton. (Click to expand.)

What is a house? In Princeton, it’s typically a one/two story structure with a sloping roof and some ornamental shutters that don’t actually close (see also ‘The Princeton‘ model from stack ’em housing constructor, Toll Brothers). However, occasionally, an innovator comes along and questions the entire idea of how we build homes…

We can think of Paolo Soleri, the legendary mad genius of the mesa, who died earlier this year. Soleri – an early opponent of sprawl – came up with his own unique form of architecture called ‘arcology’, a blend of architecture and ecology. At his future city, Arcosanti, which is still being built in the desert north of Scottsdale, AZ, Soleri’s disciples forge entire structures based on the form of hand-cast bells.

Right here in Princeton, artist and craftsman Peter Abrams is pursuing his own unique exploration of built forms. His project, ‘The B Home‘, envisages structures made of different materials with a recurring theme derived from the honeycomb lattice of a beehive. Abrams is running an exhibition of his work at the D&R Greenway Center on Tuesday, December 16, 4 pm – 8 pm – Click here for details. Having built several prototype B Homes, Abrams exhibits them monthly around the time of the full moon. At a recent showing, one visitor observed the B Home shown in the photo above and- seeming confused- asked “What is it???” The answer came quick as a flash – “It’s Art“.

And it’s true, it really is art. Although the B Home looks like a particularly stylish tool shed, or perhaps a hide for observing wild birds, this structure, made from reclaimed materials, opens the mind to many possibilities. Could nature be a guide for human homes? What are the limits to using ecologically sourced materials for construction? Could this simple structure be a modular unit for building scalable, affordable housing, to address the ongoing need for regional homes? These possibilities are developed further when you see the variations on the B Home, such as this mobile unit:

It's the B Home...on wheels! (click to expand.)

It’s the B Home…on wheels! (click to expand.)

The B Home exhibition is well worth checking out, and it’s in a beautiful location around D&R Greenway Meadows. Peter is also a great guy, willing to take the time to explain the design and construction of the B Home, and other ideas he has for expanding the concept. At his show in October, he was busy entertaining kids with art projects and offering guests free cans of coconut juice.

Inside the B Home, with the Artist. (click to expand.)

Inside the B Home, with the Artist. (click to expand.)

In Princeton, it is standard for new developments to be required to ‘fit in with the neighborhood’. This tends to produce fairly hacky pastiches of traditional architectural forms. Seeing the B Home makes us wonder whether a fresh approach could sometimes offer something of real value. The B Home is non-tradiational but is also represents many attributes of Princeton – it’s unique, ecologically-oriented, and drawn from an artistic mind.

We at Walkable Princeton are holding our own meet-up this evening (12/16/13) at Yankee Doodle Tap Room. See here for details. What do you make of the B Home? Have you ever seen anything like that before? What do you think of the idea of drawing from nature to inspire construction in Princeton? Have your say with the comments below.

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